A Maine gift shop for all skill levels is a family affair

Karleen Frost, who has three autistic sons, sells items for people with and without disabilities.

KENNEBUNK, Maine – Karleen Frost has started making sensory tools, such as weighted blankets, to help her three sons, who are on the autism spectrum.

Now, over a decade later, Frost sells dozens of items for people of all abilities in her retail store, Karleen’s ideas. The company also offers his sons the opportunity to carve out a new career one day.

Karleen’s Ideas sells everything from swimwear, clothing and jewelry to beach items, toys and crafts. And the store’s namesake is busy in the back of the store, sewing his latest creation, a weighted blanket.

Frost sells a number of items for children and adults with and without disabilities. From fidget toys and books to weighted blankets, knee pillows and shawls, which can help people with sensory overload or sensitivity. Weighted items can help people feel calm, grounded, less distracted, and help with other medical issues.

“I designed a shawl, and over the years we’ve found that shawls help with migraines, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, and PTSD,” Frost explained.

Sensory toys and tools for people of all abilities are a big hit with customers from across the country.

“Sensory issues, getting them to learn how to cope and work with them, and being able to get out into the world and socialize,” said Massachusetts client Kelly McGurn.

Frost said when her sons were young, an occupational therapist recommended weighted blankets and pillows. But after finding what she needed online, she started making some for her kids.

She then started sewing custom orders and later moved on to making jewelry to relieve stress, a skill she shares with her 16-year-old son, Karl.

“It’s relaxing and soothing, de-stressing. I’m focused on what I’m doing and I don’t feel scattered,” Karl explained.

Mother and son work side by side, making items for the shop.

Karl loves to draw patterns and makes princess bracelets. They often fly off the shelves, prompting a young customer to ask for their autograph.

“It makes me ecstatic and happy to help people,” Karl added.

Karl also waits for customers, restocks shelves and orders new products. The interaction with the public made a big difference in his social skills, development and self-confidence, both at school and at summer camp. Karl’s younger brother, Kyle, also creates a different style of bracelets on sale.

The hope is within five years to expand the space to include artisans of all skill levels. Those plans could include eldest son Donald helping to run the shop, which will include a workspace where artisans, including Karl and Kyle, can craft their wares.

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